Starbucks fired seven employees from an attempt to unionize a Memphis store.
Seattle’s coffee giant, Starbucks, stated Tuesday that employees broke company policy by opening a store after it closed and inviting outsiders to move around the store. The store was used by the employees to interview a local TV station about their unionization efforts.
However, the fired employees claim that Starbucks was retaliating against their unionization efforts. They plan to file a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board.
Beto Sanchez (25), one of the workers fired, stated that “most of these partners hadn’t had a write up or anything.”
This dispute is occurring as more Starbucks locations across the country try to unionize. According to Workers United, who is organizing Starbucks workers, 66 stores have filed petitions to the labor board in 20 states to hold union elections since December, when a Buffalo, New York store became the first Starbucks to do so.
Starbucks is against unionization. It believes that the company works best when it has direct contact with its employees. Starbucks said Tuesday’s firings were not connected to unionization efforts, but to ensure safety and security in stores.
Sanchez began working at the downtown Memphis location in April last year. He said that workers were concerned about unsafe COVID policies and other issues. Sanchez and others announced last month, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the formation of a union organizing commission.
Sanchez claimed that Starbucks did not enforce the policies he was fired from for violating. He was told, for example, that he shouldn’t have been in the back office of the store when he wasn’t on duty. He said that off-duty employees often visit the back office to access their pay stubs and check their schedules.
Sanchez stated that he would like to resume his work at Starbucks once the NLRB has reviewed his case.
Michael Schoenfeld is an attorney with Workers United and is currently working with Sanchez. He said that Starbucks selectively enforces policies to discourage employees from joining a union.